Pavement and rain

I got a call Monday asking me if I could help our fellow Presbyterians at Westminster Prez over on Grand Ave next to Denfeld High School. When I was on the School Board the Church’s pastor opened up the church daily for Denfeld kids who were loitering around the neighborhood to give them an outlet that would keep them safe while playing basketball in the church gym.

Since the June flooding the City has posted the church building as off limits due to the massive internal flooding and destruction it suffered. Because of that the small congregation had to postpone a clean up until Sunday. They were still mopping up mud and water when I arrived at 11:30am yesterday. The not so faint odor of mud, mold and sewage was in the air when I descended to the basement. The walls had a water line at about five feet and almost nothing that was at that level could be rescued save a few mostly plastic tables and perhaps some folding chairs. That meant that fifty years worth of accumulated church stuff used for funerals weddings and inumerable youth and holiday celebrations had to be hauled up into a dumpster above ground. The church floors were heaved up from the water pressure. One looked like a whale had breached it being about two feet higher at the center of the room than by the room’s walls. The water rushing up from this volcano took a right turn and smashed down the plaster wall of another room across the hallway. It was impressive.

The clothes of the men who had gotten to the church early in the morning were pretty well slathered with mud. I was pretty prissy about handling things but you can be sure all my cloths went into the wash immediately upon my return home.

The City of Duluth has communicated to the church that it takes no responsibility for the church’s trashing. I think that may be more of a negotiating stance than actual reality. The City says that a culvert built years ago by private entities absolves them of responsibility. The City has been forcing homeowners to put in sump pumps for several years including my home. The City also approved the massive paving of new and expanded paved parking lots for the Red Plan expansion of Denfeld High School. I presume the city’s engineers had to have some familiarity with the hydrological implications for any building resting over the culvert. Anyone living in Duluth for the last decade has seen rainstorms pop manhole covers on streets below the hill pretty regularly. I found one in Chester Creek below the Ninth Street Bridge a few days ago when I took a hike along the stream bed.

All that pavement would have funneled water instantly under the church no matter who built the culvert. Westminster is owned not by the small local congregation but by the Presbyterian Church USA. It will have the national church’s attorney’s to deal with and they should be formidable. If the the City is dinged for the Church’s repair it will be yet one more unanticipated expense of the Red Plan. It will fall on the City’s tab not the School Districts but it will come out of the pockets of the same taxpayer’s who are already paying for the Red Plan .

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